Less self-help than a lively and penetrating history of psychoanalysis.

THE ACT OF LIVING

WHAT THE GREAT PSYCHOLOGISTS CAN TEACH US ABOUT FINDING FULFILLMENT

An earnest attempt to expand psychoanalysis from an approach to mental illness to an explanation of the human condition.

Clinical psychologist Tallis writes that during the 1920s, Freud himself asserted that psychoanalysis was more than a medical specialty. He maintained that, besides treating psychiatric disorders, its ideas could “show how the mind functions, how minds relate to each other, and how minds operate within cultures. They can also…answer questions concerning ideal ways to live…that have been debated since ancient times.” Freud was more prescient than he realized. The 20th-century psychoanalytic doctrines of Freud, Jung, and others, which emphasize the recovery of unconscious memories and primitive desires, have proven to have few practical insights regarding the treatment of severe mental illnesses, but they remain a major influence in literature and the arts. Tallis works hard to give them the benefit of the doubt and shows equal confidence in the two other major psychoanalytic schools: the humanistic-existential, which stresses autonomy, authenticity, and achieving personal growth; and the cognitive-behavioral, which aims to correct harmful learning experiences and dysfunctional beliefs. In a dozen lucid chapters, the author discusses human needs (security, acceptance, identity, sex) and the consequences when they are not met (adversity, inferiority, narcissism). The result is less a work of philosophy than a vivid history of the psychoanalytic schools, their often equally colorful founders (“they tested their theories by experimenting with alternative lifestyles and altered states of consciousness; they followed their patients into madness; they were like explorers, venturing into the unknown. And inevitably, some of them paid a very high price”), and their conclusions. Many have proven useful; others owe more to fashion than efficacy. Although not averse to research and amenable to the insights of neuroscience, Tallis accepts the tenets of psychoanalysis, such as the malign effect of modern life on mental health.

Less self-help than a lively and penetrating history of psychoanalysis.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5416-7303-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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